Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A bit of silliness in response to William Carlos Williams - That is just to say

This has been poking at me for a couple of days, so I finally decided to write it down. It is because of a Twitter conversation and a picture of a bowl of yellow plums. 

#Just Sayin' (or GET OFF MY PLUMS)
for @exitthelemming 

I awoke in
the morning
having dreamt of
the plums

Which I 
was definitely 
for breakfast

I am left with
a bowl
so empty
and so tepid

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Annual Gathering of the Clans

Tonight, I return to a theme of sorts here: the joy of sharing food with good friends.  I have found, looking back at my archives recently, that it is a thread that continues through my most profound experiences with food.  It is not the celebration of the food, but the consecration of it in the presence of those I love that brings me the most joy.

One of those times comes annually at the Pacific Northwest Highland Games and Scottish Clan Gathering.  Some friends of ours have been taking part for years, camping Friday and Saturday nights, participating in the Parade of Clans, etc.  It started with the Scots, but there were also Irish and Welsh.  Then the Vikings invaded (a Norwegian in our midst) and so did the Samurai (one or two Japanese).  Now, the gathering is more one of nations than clans. 

We have only camped over once.  We usually go only on Saturday, spend the day and go home late in the evening.  The last two years, we brought our son, too.

On the Clan scale, I do have quite a bit of Scot (Baird, Kennedy) in me, as well as Welsh (Evans, Hywel Gruffudd, Maredydd) and Irish (Derry).  If the research I've done on is to be believed, I also have a bit of French (Lux), German (Wagner) and a wee smattering of Canadian (Brundage). 

It's no wonder that I, of such varied lineage, find myself at home in Clan Hodge Podge, the name our group has given itself.  We have a clan banner and everything. 

Of course there are Scottish Games, pipe band competitions and Highland dancers. There is a ceilidh on Saturday night and a saltire on Friday night.  There is the playing of the mass bands and the Parade of Clans. 

It is all very lively, sometimes humbling, and always very fun. 

I love sitting at the Clan HP campsite, relaxing when I've had enough of the festival grounds and need some relative quiet.  I love that the whole clan watches out for the little ones. It is the one time  in the year when I get to sit down and talk to some people who have become my friends at that very spot. 

That includes the Saturday Night Clan Hodge Podge dinner.  Everyone brings their own protein to grill and a side to share (we forgot our side this year...we apologize).  There are always bags of chips, some salads and desserts (this year's winner, IMO, was the caramel brownie - thanks, Ruthie!).  Oh, and a shout out to Clan Crawford (not part of our group) who was handing out tastes of haggis dip (haggis ingredients mixed with cream cheese).  It was rather good!  

And now to the actual food part of the entry, because, this is, after all, a blog mostly about food. 

We were only down for the day and we wanted to pack easy and light, so we went to our standard grilling meal for this year: tri tip steak and grilled heads of romaine with homemade caesar dressing (plus some carrots for the G-man). 

The three small pieces of tri-tip (probably about 4 oz. each) were rubbed with a mixture of salt, pepper, garlic powder and Herbes de Provence (a trick I picked up from my buddy, Devin. Thanks, man!).  I seasoned the steaks the night before and put them in a plastic zippy bag for easy travel.

The head of romaine I sliced in half longways and brushed with canola oil.  This also went into a zippy bag for traveling.

The caesar dressing is something I have adapted over the years, but the original recipe came from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  I never measure it anymore, so measurements are approximate and to taste. 
And so to the recipe for this entry.

Caesar Dressing

3 tbsp. lemon juice (bottled lemon juice is okay. If you use fresh lemon, it's the juice of one good-sized lemon)
3 or 4 shakes of Worcestershire Sauce (which, if you have ever watched the Two Fat Ladies, you will know is pronounced Wooster Sauce.  ;))
3 or 4 shakes of Tabasco Sauce (more or less to your taste.  I have been doing 5 or 6 lately because I like the burn and the extra vinegar)
1 clove garlic, pressed (yes, I know it bruises it and collapses the cell walls and blah blah blah. If you want to take the time to make a paste out of chopped garlic and salt, you can.  I do, too, sometimes.  But sometimes I want to shove a solid piece of aromatic vegetable matter through a bunch of tiny holes.)
about 1 tsp of dijon mustard (I like Trader Joe's brand because it is extra zingy)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (no pre-ground pepper, please. I have some standards)
Olive oil  (good, flavorful Extra Virgin stuff.  It will make a difference in how your dressing tastes.  Quantity of oil? I don't know.  Maybe about a half cup. Till it's the right consistency and taste. Yes, I know that's a lot of oil.  You're not going use all of this at once.  There will be leftovers unless you're doing salad for a huge crowd.)

This is one of those things I make that I always do by hand.  It just feels good to do it that way.  It makes me remember that I do have some skills in the kitchen.  I can still emulsify with the best of them.  Let me 'splain.  No, is too long. Let me sum up.

Put all the ingredients EXCEPT the oil in a medium bowl that has some good room for whisking.  it might be a good idea to have some grippy stuff underneath the bowl or have a helper to hold the bowl still.  It might move around and you won't have an available hand to steady it.

Whisk those ingredients to blend. 

Pour the olive oil in a thin stream (pretty easy to do with a steady hand from an olive oil bottle.  I have a hard time doing this from a measure cup, which is why I don't know exactly how much oil is in my dressing.), whisking briskly as you do so.  As the oil is incorporated into the rest of the ingredients, it will start to thicken.   When you think you have enough oil in there, stop pouring and whisk a bit more to make sure all of the oil you've poured is in the mixture.  Taste.  If you think it is too strong, add more oil.  Better to stop early and need to add more oil than to over do on the oil and then have to try and get more flavor into it. 

Really the only thing I am comfortable adding after the oil is more salt and pepper.  You can always add salt.  You can't take it out.  Better to err on the side of underseasoned.  You can always add some salty cheese (which you will for this dish) or some fancy finishing salt after you've dressed your salad. 

For transporting, this dressing can be put in a mason jar and it will travel quite nicely

If you're using this with some grilled romaine, like we did: 
Grill your split and oiled romaine heads on a hot barbecue grill for 2 or 3 minutes (4 if you like lots of char), remove, then drizzle with the dressing while still hot.  Sprinkle with parmesan or other salty, hard cheese. Enjoy!    

Food prep happened on Friday night.  Saturday we packed up our prepped food and headed south to Enumclaw for a day with friends. 

Our son had a great time playing with his bestie. My wife and I had some great conversations with some of our dearest.  We sat in a great circle in the evening light and ate our suppers and laughed.  We renewed our spirits with good food and dear people. 

So tonight, I raise my glass to Clan Hodge Podge and the annual gathering of the Clan.  It is always a joy to crowd around the communal table with you.